Ralston Independent Works Palace of Fine Arts and Ferry Tower, San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

To Joseph Eichler, home building was a deeply personal affair, in effect, a form of creative self-expression; he threw himself into his projects.

Joseph Eichler, late 1940s

In 1949 he hired the architect and Frank Lloyd Wright disciple Robert Anshen and Anshen's partner Allen to design him a house on his one-acre property in Atherton. The house, in which Eichler would live until 1965, was modeled after Bazett House, built 1940 by Frank Lloyd Wright in Hillsborough.

In 1950, Eichler commissioned the architectural firm to design prototypes for five of his subdivisions: Sunnyvale Manor Addition, Sunnyvale; El Centro Gardens, Green Gables, and Greer Park in Palo Alto; Atherwood in Redwood City. Eichler built the property at 751 De Soto Eichler in 1952.

Bazett House, Frank Lloyd Wright. Hillsborough, California, 1940

Eichler homes featured purity and elegance in everyday living for the least cost. They were practical, manageable and aesthetically enriching. Designs were technically sophisticated, however, and although cheaper to build than many conventional "stick-built" homes, Eichlers were nonetheless tricky to put together.

Anshen's original Eichler layouts included flexible open planning and built-in furnishings that made for efficient, innovative ways of family living. The design strategy of post-and-beam structure, and exposed Philippine mahogany-veneered plywood panels had a custom designed feeling. A large picture window gave airy feelings. A sliding glass door that opened onto a patio became a transparent wall, further erasing the boundary between indoor and outdoor space. Later models introduced the famous Eichler atriums, an entrance foyer designed to further advance the Eichler concept of integrating outdoor and indoor spaces.

Floor plans open up movement and visibility among various realms within the house. Eichler kitchens were combined with a "multi-purpose room," thus allowing mothers to oversee their children as they, mothers, worked. Living and dining rooms were combined and often used to separate the children's bedrooms from the parents' room. The living and dining rooms in houses' rears faced enclosed gardens. The bedroom wings defined and sheltered a backyard patio accessible through a door in the floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

Kitchens featured modern appliances set against modern surfaces with easy upkeep. Among the most popular features were the built-in breakfast bars. An extension of the kitchen counter that was connected to the base cabinet, the bar swiveled on a hinge that allowed it to swing into the multi-purpose room to serve as a formal dining table. Kitchen cabinets were small but elegant, durable, and finished with Zolatone, a washable multicolored lacquer paint invented in 1948.

Eichler kitchen: thermador appliances, zolatone-treated cabinetry; sliding doors; extendable swing-out table. Even recently remodeled Eichler homes retain this kitchen plan.

Eichler hired landscape architects who helped develop the concept of indoor-outdoor living by sculpting yard spaces to extend the living areas beyond the bounds of the house. Patios with built-in planters added spatial definition. The outdoor living spaces helped sell the houses.

In recent years, Eichlers have become fashionable again, as part of a rediscovery of American mid-century modern style. Eichler Homes today sell for extraordinary sums.


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